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Fri, 04.26.1946

Marilyn Nelson Waniek, Poet, and Educator born

Marilyn Nelson Waniek

*Marilyn Nelson Waniek was born on this date in 1946. She is a Black poet, writer, and educator.

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Marilyn Nelson Waniek is the daughter of Melvin M. (in the U.S. Air Force) and Johnnie (a teacher) Nelson. She got her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Davis, in 1968; her M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1970; her University of Minnesota Ph.D. 1978. She was married to Erdmann F. Waniek (1970 - 1979); Roger R. Wilkenfeld (1979 - 1998), and children: in (second marriage) Jacob and Dora.

Going by the last name Nelson since 1995, she is the author of several collections of poems, including For the Body, The Cat Walked Through the Casserole and Other Poems for Children, and The Homeplace, which was a Finalist for the 1991 National Book Award. Marilyn Hacker described The Homeplace as a "book whose good humor, grace and dignity clothe the naked body of truth-telling. Waniek limns her characters, who are also her foremothers and forefathers, with a novelist's sleight of hand and a poet's precision and music."

Waniek is a Professor of English at the University of Connecticut. Another collection of poems is Magnificat, published in 1994. The Fields Of Praise: New And Selected Poems (Louisiana State University Press) won the 1998 Poets' Prize and was a finalist for the 1997 National Book Award.

Her honors include two NEA creative writing fellowships, the 1990 Connecticut Arts Award, a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship, and a 2001 Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2012, the Poetry Society of America awarded her the Frost Medal. In 2013, Nelson was elected chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

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